How can the U.S. help Venezuelans? Prosecute corrupt oligarchs hiding in Texas
If the Trump administration is committed to punishing the Venezuelan government and alleviating the suffering of the country’s citizens, part of the solution lies close to home.
Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, speaking at the University of Houston this week, aimed tough talk at the South American nation weeks after the United States placed new sanctions on 23 Venezuelan citizens and firms.
All have close ties to the government headed by President Nicolas Maduro, which has fantastically mismanaged Venezuela’s economy, squandered its vast natural resources and left millions of its citizens hungry, impoverished and without a democratic government. The Trump administration is right to take a hard line against the oligarchs who have ruined Venezuela, but if we are serious about helping the Venezuelan people, we must prosecute or expel the hundreds of corrupt Venezuelans living in the United States — many of whom are in Texas.
Graft has been widespread in Venezuela’s energy industry, especially since Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s predecessor, became president in 1999. Scholars and law enforcement officials believe hundreds of Venezuelans who made fortunes by scamming the government and its state-owned oil company, PDVSA, have settled quietly in American cities like Houston and Miami.
Yet only recently has the Department of Justice begun to bring cases against them. In 2015, federal prosecutors scored their biggest victory to date — the indictment of The Woodlands businessman Robert Rincon, who the feds say led a $1 billion scheme to defraud PDVSA. That ongoing case has netted 14 more prosecutions of Venezuelans, including an additional five in February. Many live in the large expatriate community in Katy.
Around 11,000 Venezuelan immigrants call the Houston area home. The vast majority are uninvolved with the corrupt oligarchs who hide among them, and many fled Venezuela to escape the Chavez/Maduro regime or help support desperate family members there. They are understandably frustrated to see corrupt countrymen move into their neighborhoods.
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